Monday, 2 July 2012

In defence of politics & political manoeuvres

 I've recently read this rather thoughtful piece by Dan Hodges over at the Telegraph, and I thought about it in context of what I've been saying this last week on here. He first quotes Gordon Brown's view on LBJ's biographies:

“These books challenge the view of history that politics is just about individual manoeuvring. It’s about ideas and principled policy achievements.”

Hodges argues against this as so:
"Which isn’t what they’re about at all. There is an orgy of individual manoeuvring: stolen elections, stitched-up votes, enemies politically silenced, policies bought, favours sold. "
I'm possibly not as cynical as I find Hodges to be here, as I think the individual manoeuvres in politics are a means to an end, which is putting into practice your ideas. However, he's got a point, as he often has.
I used to mistrust politicians as I thought, like a lot of people that they "all lie". Through actually being involved with politics, in the last two years, and counting politicians amongst my friends I've seen things from a different side. 
Plus I've seen the alliance building that you have to be good at to be effective. It's also important to learn to use information, and yes, probably understand how to serve your own interests - or you could be manipulated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is if you let it consume or overcome you.
I was given Machiavelli's "The Prince" as a present, funnily enough a friend of mine also received this as a present recently and was a little startled - and asked should they be insulted? I wasn't when it happened to me, I thought it was useful book - useful to understand machinations, even if you don't want to participate in them yourself.
That's why I find Gordon Brown's statement above a bit disingenuous. He, of all people, party to the Granita pact to divvy up the power between himself and Blair. Although it was a smart move for the Labour party and a good piece of politics - pretty much a win / win - it's not really about "....ideas and principled policy achievements.” But it may have changed history. Hardly insignificant.

Hodges goes onto to say it's about
"charting the constant conflict, and trade-off, between personal ambition and political idealism. And how the area between the two is a much darker shade of grey than popularly perceived."
A couple of days ago I said there were two types of people in politics, those who wanted to make a difference and egotists. Now, maybe, I'm moderating my view. I guess it's a little murkier... people want to get things done, and to do that they need power. To get power you have to play games, of a kind, and the naive suffer. Again, your character and your values are what matters, as in referring back to them to understand what to do next.
In the Lib Dems, we are alright at tolerating other people's view in general (just don't mention the Middle East!) and have had our fair share of alliance building machinations, both then and now, I'm sure. One thing tho, being a politician is certainly not an easy life. So I still maintain it's a good test of character.

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